I read a good book this weekend by Malcolm Gladwell called David and Goliath. He wrote about individuals who have battled giants in their lives. In his chapter on Dyslexics, Mr. Galdwell asked the question, “You Wouldn’t Wish Dyslexia On Your Child, Or Would You?”
Two psychologists at the University of California, Los Angeles, Robert Bjork and Elizabeth Bjork, came up with the concept of desirable difficulties. Mr. Gladwell, wrote, “Conventional wisdom holds that a disadvantage is something that ought to be avoided – that it is a setback or a difficulty that leaves you worse off than you would be otherwise.” (p. 100) The rest of his chapter shows that dyslexia is not a disadvantage, but can turn out to be a desirable difficulty. Mr. Gladwell points out that a high amount of entrepreneurs are dyslexic. Those entrepreneurs admit that their dyslexia contributed to their success. How did a disadvantage contribute to success? How can a neurological malfunction become a career success?
Mr. Gladwell mentions the Cognitive Reflection Test invented by Shane Frederick. The test consists of three questions and it measures your ability to understand when something is more complex than it appears. This test is very hard but two psychologists, Alter and Oppenheimer, decided to make it harder. They made it harder to raise the student’s scores. The way they made it harder was to change the print to a smaller, lighter font. Making it harder to read, made the test takers work harder to answer the questions. Mr. Gladwell wrote, “As Alter says, making the questions ‘disfluent’ causes people to ‘think more deeply about whatever they come across. They’ll use more resources on it. They’ll process more deeply or think more carefully about what’s going on. If they have to overcome a hurdle, they’ll overcome it better when you force them to think a little harder.’” (p. 105)
Alter and Oppenheimer raised student’s scores, “by making their lives harder, by forcing them to compensate for something that had been taken away from them.” (p. 112) That is what dyslexics do when they learn to compensate. They become better listeners, memorizers, etc. They access their sea of strengths that Drs. Bennett and Sally Shaywitz write about.
Mr. Galdwell ends his chapter with this, “Dyslexia – in the best of cases – forces you to develop skills that might otherwise have lain dormant. It also forces you to do things that you might otherwise never have considered.” (p. 124) Lets keep encouraging these unique learners to find their hidden skills.
At Online Reading Tutor we acknowledge that is is not easy for an individual who has reading difficulties to become a fluent reader. There is not doubt it takes perseverance to implement our recommendation that success is achieved by frequent and targeted daily practice. Many testimonials from parents emphasize that their children learn to be tenacious by adhering to a prescribed training schedule. Our students develop the attitude that if they work hard, they will triumph and in turn develop resiliency and perseverance as life long skills.